On the Cutting Edge
Credit union transitions to all IP video surveillance solution
- By Ali Mahmoud
- Sep 01, 2013
Staying on top of a rapidly evolving technology, such as video surveillance,
can be challenging. Despite knowing recent technologies
are more powerful, efficient and effective at addressing risks, the logistics
of making a transition can be complex, decision-making can
take time and the required investment can be significant. However,
some banks and credit unions take pride in being early adopters and are able to
quickly embrace change.
Such is the case with Centris Federal Credit Union, a financial institution based
in Omaha, Neb., with 11 branches serving Omaha and other communities across
Centris had been using a hybrid NVR solution since 2006, long before the
industry began transitioning from analog to IP and from NVRs to server-based
platforms. When a new head office building was acquired three years later, Steve
Edgerton, senior vice president of technology, and Blake Grooters, facilities manager,
decided to test the waters with a server-based, VMS software solution and
new IP cameras.
Moving to IP Video
Centris opted for a browser-based, VMS solution and IP cameras from March
Networks, which they preferred over the cameras originally acquired with their
Despite the different brands of surveillance technology deployed across Centris’
footprint, investigators are able to access and review video from any camera in the
system through the common VMS user interface. This allows the credit union to transition
to new technology over time, leverage prior investments in its NVRs and analog
cameras, and not have to worry about the interoperability of different platforms.
The VMS eliminates the need to upgrade software on desktops throughout the
credit union’s branch network, streamlines administration of user privileges and
camera settings, and minimizes hardware failures as servers replace NVRs.
“At the same time, IP cameras provide Centris with a phenomenal improvement
in picture quality,” Grooters said.
The VMS is facilitating the deployment of video surveillance at remote kiosks
in grocery stores. Instead of installing a NVR or server at the location, Centris
simply connects an IP camera to the corporate network, linking the kiosk to the
“Going forward, the plan is to phase out the NVRs over time, put everything
on the VMS and go exclusively with the new IP cameras,” Edgerton said.
In fact, subsequent remodeling projects at several branches offered an opportunity
to transition to an all-IP system.
A cloud-based, mobile application that works with the VMS will facilitate mobile
access to video from tablets and smartphones. In the event of an emergency, authorized
Centris staff will be able to go into the system, select a camera and view
live video, even if they are on the road or in an off-site meeting.
“There are more and more tablets across the enterprise, so we’re looking forward
to taking advantage of mobile access,” Edgerton said.
Video Surveillance as a Deterrent
Evidence from the video surveillance
solution has been used on numerous
occasions to document a variety of
incidents, from robberies to cases of
internal fraud, with some clips even
airing on local TV news broadcasts.
For the most part, however, the system
functions as a deterrent.
“The first thing anyone sees when
they come in the front door of one of our
branches is a welcome [analog] monitor
with their picture on it,” Edgerton said.
“It lets them know right away that they
are under surveillance, so if they’re coming
in with anything other than innocent
intentions, they’ll just turn around and
walk right out. There have been several
instances of this over the years.”
A single-channel encoder is used to
convert digital video from the IP cameras
for display on the analog monitor.
Combatting ATM Fraud
Centris’ strategy for combatting ATM
fraud is mounting cameras in areas that
are out of the reach of a potential fraudster.
The cameras record the customer’s
approach so that person can’t cover up
the camera installed inside the ATM.
Several tools are available to the
credit union to make sure their video
surveillance system is up and running.
For example, the NVR software
reports on the health status of the
ATM-mounted recorders, while the
health checking capability of the VMS
reports on any performance issues affecting
At sites still equipped with NVRs,
branch management logs on to each recorder
first thing every morning to make
sure their analog cameras are working
properly. Centris’ IT department uses a
network monitoring system that alerts
staff to server and other issues.
“We have three large monitors in our
technology services area that display
alerts, color codes them and sends out
text messages to whoever is on call, so
we’re pretty well covered,” Grooters said.
Relying on Diebold Incorporated’s
Omaha office for support and expertise,
Centris recently took advantage of
an alarm monitoring service that allows
Diebold’s 24/7 monitoring center to access
Centris’ video surveillance system
for alarm verification.
“It’s a great service to have because
if something happens in the middle of
the night at a branch, we can go in and
have a look around,” Diebold’s Lindsay
Michalski said. “If it’s a false alarm,
we don’t have to wake anybody up or
bother the police.”
“I give a lot of credit to Centris for
embracing innovation and the technological
changes that we have seen in the
video surveillance industry. Their system
is state-of-the-art and a model that
other financial institutions can certainly
This article originally appeared in the September 2013 issue of Security Today.
Ali Mahmoud is a Product Manager with March Networks, a leading provider of IP video surveillance solutions to some of the world’s largest retail organizations.